02 August 2016 | Mooloolaba Anchorage
24 July 2016 | Keppel Island
23 July 2016 | Digby Island
13 July 2016 | MacKay Marina
12 July 2016 | Whitehaven Bay
05 July 2016 | Sawmill Bay, Whitsunday Island
10 August 2016
After a nice, easy day sail from Mooloolaba (how civilized!) we dropped the hook in Deception Bay. The afternoon sun was warm and the water was calm. A refreshing swim seemed like the perfect way to end the day. But was it safe to swim here? We had the entire bay to ourself - there wasn't anyone around to ask. Maybe the dangers of shark attacks and stingers are a bit exaggerated for dramatic effect... if we jumped in now for a 20 minute swim, what would our chances of be of getting chomped on or stung? 50%? 80% 10%?
I peered over the stern, frustrated about how infrequently we'd played in the ocean this season, and noticed that we were completely surrounded by a jellyfish bloom. Thousands of translucent white jellyfish hovered and bobbed at the surface around us. They stayed so long that I finally lost interest in watching them and slipped inside to do a bit of research on the stingers of Moreton Bay. Maybe they were the non-stinging kind! After all, we've swam with plenty of jelly fish in the Pacific Northwest. It was like swimming in a tub of giant tapioca - and while bumping up against them felt a bit weird it was completely benign.
After a few minutes of googling I came to the conclusion that we would most likely have been stung multiple times if we ventured in, as would have been impossible not to bump into dozens of them. But, this particular species, the 'Blubber' Jellyfish, typically only inflicts mild symptoms and wouldn't kill us.
I also learned that there are 16 common species of jellyfish in Queensland's coastal waters, but the most lethal ones are the Box Jellyfish, the Blue Bottle, and the Irikandji. Their stings cause very serious symptoms which can require hospitalization, and while numerous people get stung, few actually die from them each year, and most have a full recovery (some with permanent tattoos to enhance the tales of their encounter). As far as shark attacks go, a prominent shark expert indicates that you're more likely to get in a car crash driving to the beach, and then drown or get hit in the head with a surfboard, than die from a shark attack along Australia's East Coast.
Since then we've chatted with our Brisbane friends and heard some alarming personal accounts about stinger injuries and the prevalence of bull sharks in the bay. We made a good decision to stay on deck.
Climbing Through a Small Window
02 August 2016 | Mooloolaba Anchorage
As most of you are aware from previous blogs, a lot of our lives while cruising revolve around the weather or what are known as “weather windows”. These nebulous entities appear in forecasts and all too often disappear a few days before they are supposed to occur. When we were in Vanuatu last year I felt like Charlie Brown and the football. Every time a window appeared it was wisked away at the last minute by an updated weather forecast (I am sure Lucy works for them!!!)
So our present problem (I know it is hard to call anything associated with our present lifestyle a problem) is to work South against prevailing winds from the Southeast as mentioned in a previous blog. We had been in Keppel Marina for 5 days and while it is a nice marina, after 5 days you have done the hikes, been to town stop provision and eaten at most of the restaurants. As we are planning to head home at the end of August, these 5-7 day breaks from moving is beginning to be a problem.
We look at the weather numerous times a day on various internet sites trying to find a window of opportunity. It looked like Sunday would provide such an opportunity with some calm weather to make a short hop South. So that was the plan. On Saturday afternoon I reevaluated the information, did a few calculations and suggested to Kim that rather than the short hop we had planned,there was a tight opening to go a lot further (280 miles as opposed to 60) The catch was the window would slam shut with strong southerly wind of 25-30 knots and 6-12 foot seas a mere 12 hours after our 48 hour trip. Tight, but it was doable.
We set off Sunday morning at 630 knowing that for the first 8-12 hours we would have some head winds and sea against us but after that it would calm down. There certainly were head winds and adverse seas as well as significant adverse current that at times slowed us down to below 4 knots even with close to full throttle on the diesel. (I had made my calculations planning on 5.5-6 knots) When we were 18 hours into the trip and still were fighting headwinds and swell, things got a bit concerning. The last thing we wanted was to arrive at our destination after the Southerly winds set in. Luckily, as predicted the wind and seas did abate albeit 6 hours late and so with a little more pressure on the throttle and then a welcome following wind we were back on track. In fact conditions turned around so much we decided to slow down so we would arrive at daylight and high tide. With all under control again, I decided to take a nap.
Shortly after lying down, Kim informed me that she had looked at our route on the chart plotter and our destination was plotted incorrectly. (My bad) We needed to go a further 30 miles. Normally we have some lee way but we were headed for Mooloolaba where going into the anchorage at high tide is imperative (See previous blog Sanding the Keel). So on went the throttle again, up went the genoa as the wind had filled in behind us and we were off again trying to squeeze though a window that seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. As luck would have it, the wind held and we were blessed by a persistent positive current of over one knot (I guess payback for the adverse current of the day before). We arrived on time exactly 48 hours after our departure and are now comfortably tucked in an anchorage. well protected from the upcoming storm.
Looking at the weather this morning it looks like we will be here for at least 5 days before the window opens again to head further South. The good news is our next trip is short and will have us back in Brisbane where we will stay put for a while.
Up The Creek
27 July 2016
We've noticed that local cruisers 'day-sail' up and down the East Coast. They're often surprised to hear about our multi-day overnight passages. But now that we've spent a season here, we can appreciate how day-sails can enhance the cruising experience. There are plenty of scenic nooks and crannies to tuck into if you know where to find them. We've learned that the key to cruising the East Coast to give yourself plenty of time, let the weather be your guide, rely on local knowledge (some of the best spots aren't obvious on the charts) and go in a boat with a shallow draft (catamarans are very popular here). Many anchorages are less than 6 feet deep at low tide, and some of the best ones are up rivers... so you can literally be up the creek!
Keppel Bay Marina
26 July 2016
Our next stop was Keppel Bay Marina (a mere 10 nautical miles away from the Islands). It's a great place to provision, refuel and take a break from the galley. The Marina restaurant has an excellent chef (while I'm admittedly biased towards Pacific Northwest salmon, this may have been the best salmon fillet I've ever had!). Combine this with some great trails and parks nearby as well as a Marina courtesy car, and this rates high on our list of favourite pit stops.
25 July 2016
We ventured ashore for an afternoon hike to the other side of Great Keppel Island. It was a perfect day - warm and sunny, and with the exception of a few songbirds we were completely alone. The deeper we got into the woods the more rustling we heard. The sound was too loud for a bird or a mouse, or even a lizard. We stood still for a moment and peered through the bush to see if we could detect any movement.
Aha!! We were surrounded by goats! Camouflaged in the brush, a number of mottled looking goats stared back at us. We continued along the narrow trail as a huge billygoat with long curved horns crossed our path, staring defiantly back at us. A few moments later another one crossed from the same direction. We had a sense of deja vu - it looked identical. Did the first one circle around and come back? Or do they all look the same? Ten minutes later we spotted him (or one of brothers) staring at us from between the bushes. Weird!
Just then a deep thumping noise broke our staring contest. The woods came alive as the goats scattered. The thumping grew louder and louder until few seconds later a helicopter flew directly above us. This was turning into a very interesting hike!
Later we met a bunch of cruisers for an evening bonfire on the beach, and learned that the helicopter was scouting for goats while a group of professional outback cowboys on horseback rounded them up. Apparently the Island had grown overpopulated and they were being transported to a goat farm on the mainland. No wonder they were hiding!
25 July 2016
A resident couple who rent out a rustic cabin have set out white painted stones to mark the way at strategic locations along the goat paths (a.k.a. hiking trails). Some are decorated with inspiring quotes which adds a level of charm to hiking the Island. I'm sure these markers serve a practical purpose as well - saving the couple from having to search for their guests who have lost their way!